#1: Gathering songAt the beginning of my Kindergarten and first grade classes, I sing "Here we are together," to the tune of "The more we get together." Instead of, "'cause your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends," I sing all the students' names around the room, so the lyrics are like:
"Oh here we are together, together, together,
Oh here we are together in music today.
With Jenna, and Macy, and Scott, and Aileen....
Oh here we are together, in music today."Is it hard at the beginning of the year? Yes! Especially with Kindergarten, whose names I'm just learning. But it forces me to really learn their names so it doesn't take so long to get around the circle!
#2: SolosAfter the gathering song, I listen to 4-5 students sing solos. I'll sing to them "Hello ________," using solfa we're preparing/ practicing, such as s-m-s-m or s-l-s-m, and they sing back "Hello Mrs. Miracle." Then I'll ask them a question, such as "What's your favorite color?" or "What did you do this weekend?" or "What's your favorite food?" It helps me get to know them better, helps me hear who well they are matching pitch, AND it helps me learn their names better!
#3: Name gamesOne of my favorite name games is called "Rickety Rackety," and goes like this:
For the older grades, my all-time favorite name game is called "Jump in." Here is a similar rendition to the one I do with my kids:
#4: Studying pictures of each classMy first year at my new school, ALL the students were new to me, so I took a picture of each class and labeled their names to help me remember. I kept this list in with my seating charts for a quick reference, and would often just sit and study the pictures to help me remember.
#5: Seating chartsSpeaking of seating charts, these are a great way to remember names! I have used the Smart Seat app, which allows you to take pictures of each student, but you could also just have a written out seating chart and look at it as you are teaching to help call on kids.
#6: Mind gamesSometimes I just have to play "mind games" with myself to help remember kids' names. Remind yourself that Molly has a mole and her twin sister Ava doesn't. Or if the are truly identical and impossible to tell apart, memorize which twin is in which class. Or if you have a hard time mixing up siblings, tell yourself that A comes before S in the alphabet, so therefore Adam is the oldest and Sean is the youngest. Or just tell yourself, "She LOOKS like a Sydney." These little tricks seem to work for me!
With seeing my students less than before--just once a week--I have been making more mistakes with names (or maybe I should blame that on getting older?!?!) When I make a mistake (most often calling siblings by their other sibling's name) I gently remind students that I know exactly who they are, but with 600+ names to remember I sometimes make a mistake, and that I'm sorry. They are pretty understanding!
Besides the benefit of being able to give directions to a student without saying "Hey, you," by memorizing all of these names, you are telling your students that each one of them is important to you. And that's a pretty cool thing!
What are your strategies? Feel free to comment below!